Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bugaboos: Pikas, Gushers and Honey

Hari and I met for the first time in a coffee shop about two days before we went climbing in the Bugs. I had caught a ride to the airport with one of his friends when I needed to get from a climbing day in California to a business trip in Minneapolis, who suggested I contact him. And so, another climbing partnership was born through the power of the internet and some deductive stalking (I had to find his email somehow) and some-guy-who-gave-me-a-ride's reference (thanks Brad!).

[disclaimer: about half of these photos are Hari's]
If you've never been to the Bugs (or heard of them, which was my case until Hari emailed me about them 3 weeks ago), they're gorgeous granite spires that are formed by pluon magma chambers that cool and erode. Also, did you know feldspar makes up 60% of the world's crust and that you can take ancient horse teeth to extract isotopes and date the age of the soil?

The benefits of traveling with a 5th year Ph.D Geochemist with a tenure track professorship secured at Santa Clara, are countless. I secretly played a game to see if I could stump him by pointing at random rocks formations and say "what's that and how was it made". Guys, let me tell you: Hari knows his shit about rocks.

Some of those pluons Hari was talking about on our approach in
We broke up our Seattle to Bugs drive in half and camped on some logging road in the middle of Canadia for a night. Arriving, one must secure the vehicle with chickenwire and stakes to keep pesky antifreeze-loving porcupines away. 

I used my dad's old soviet-era crampons, but made a last-minute decision to use approach shoes with them instead of my boots. They weren't adjusted (what a noob move) so there were some shenanigans involved with using an ice ax to hold the screw in place and some pliers to rotate the nut. Below, your's truly is pictured wrassling some crampons with brute strength.

One thing I've so far failed to mention is that Hari is a cardio machine. No, you don't understand. This guy runs a 10k in under 29 min. That's 6+ miles at a 4:40min/mile pace. So.....yeah......then there's me. When hard-pressed, I could run a 5:10 mile. For one mile on a flat track. Did I mention that Hari just got off an expedition on Lhotse and is gunning to become a Snow Leopard? That's a lot of 7000m stuff he's done, so bottom line is: altitude, cardio is not a problem for this guy. He was also a very humble and non-egotistical climbing partner, even though his resume is much more impressive and he has 6+ years on me.   

On the initial approach, Hari didn't speed demon his way to the top and instead took some lovely pictures.   

We had reservations at the Kain hut so we were living the cush lifestyle. We brought IPA's, glass-jar marinara, tortellini, a pint of honey that miraculously didn't spill in my pack, brie cheese and all sorts of other luxuries that we could flaunt in front of the other climbers that scrimped on weight and were eating dehydrated muesli. Who said camping food couldn't be good?

Our luxury accommodations
So climbing. The Col wasn't too bad, although people were saying it was in poor condition. I mean, the steps were kicked in, and yes there was a giant, gaping chasm void to cross, and yes there was lots of rockfall, but we quickly climbed up and down with no problems while other groups set up three rappels instead of quickly downclimbing.

The gaping void you could skirt the edges of

In my opinion, the faster you get your ass out of the danger rockfall zone, the better, so downclimbing was the logical choice.
The Col from a distance. 
 Approaching the Col and going into step-kicking overdrive.

 More pictures of climbing the Col.

....and downclimbing the Col.

We mostly stuck to moderates on this trip, although I scouted routes I really, really want to do the next time I'm up here (sunshine crack and Beckey-Chouinard I'm coming after you! Maybe next time I'll actually bring two ropes instead of stupidly only bringing one!)

We literally raced up Pigeon Spire and did it in 4+ hrs hut to hut. Simuling the whole thing was less climbing and more a cardio workout with occasional stops to take a photo or two. 

 View of the Howsers and the B-C that is gonna go down the next time I can get up here.

Damn this place is picturesque as fuck.

I discovered that Gushers make delicious gu-like treats up on climbs. 

Did I mention that I think they're the new super food?

We climbed McTech Arete on a day when it seemed like it might rain in the afternoon.

 Here's a photo of your's truly practicing some of those Gunks-style roof techniques. *Sniff* it was so long ago since my first trad leads when my climbing partner, and who I considered a friend, sicked me on Modern Times. Good times. Thanks Mert the Marmot, couldn't have done it without ya! I owe all my climbing achievements to my mentors.

 Topping out is always a delight.

The rappels are also pretty gorgeous.

Hari was obsessed with pikas and marmots. I swear there were more pictures of marmots and other rodents on his camera than of me. But you have to agree that they are pretty cute. 

 The heli is rescuing some poor dudes that got their rope stuck on sunshine.

One of the luxuries that Hari brought was his laptop. Here the geologist can be seen in his natural element hard at work on a letter of intent during a rainy day (the weather up here was bipolar). Since this photo was taken he was offered a tenure track professorship at Santa Clara. Not bad for a day's work.

I had exactly 1.36 lbs of honey with me (pictured bottom right corner), and I wanted to somehow get it on the wall with me, so I ingeniously devised a way to do so by pouring the honey into drained Tennessee Honey Whiskey bottles. 
 Everyone said it wouldn't work, but I'm calling bullshit. It worked like a charm. Insta-fuel.

We climbed some other things, but the most beautiful (and of which I have lots of photos) was the Ridge of Bugaboo Spire. It was our last day, and it was pretty long. 12 hrs hut to hut and then 30 min of packing up and racing down to the car to beat the sunset and get food. 

 We left the hut around 7am, and the dew (and rain from the previous day) had frozen during the night, making for some interesting climbing.

The climbing was super easy technically (max 5.8), but there was snow on most of the belay ledges and verglass on the rocks, so foot-slipping on 5th class stuff and numb, cold fingers from gripping snow and ice holds kept things engaging.

Two dudes letting us pass on the snowy path
Here's a photo of a squeeze chimney I stupidly decided to climb with my pack on. Of course my ice ax got caught and I thrashed for a few minutes while trying to get myself unstuck. Hooray for alpine climbing!

Below is a photo of a hollow flake I really wasn't too fond of leading. There was no reliable pro and the whole thing kinda moved at one point, so I had an exciting 50' runout sprint to the top. Below, Hari obliviously follows what I thought was the scariest part of the whole climb. 

The views were incredible.

I got to practice my ridge humping and route-finding techniques  on the summit traverse.

This place is amazing. We got back to the hut, stuffed all our stuff in our packs and then ran down the trail (pretty sure it was more of a walk for Hari, but I was definitely running behind him). We drove the dirt road to the nearest town to try to find food, but the only place open was a gelato store. 

We ate a dinner of ice cream and then, from a tip from a local I was chatting to, drove another 1:30 to some wild hot springs. By 1 am we had located these wonderful geologic bathhouses and were able to wash off all the grime of the last 19 hours in ridiculously hot springs before crashing for the night and the long drive back to Seattle. 

Bugs, I'm coming back for sure! 

1 comment:

  1. When I was in Bugaboos I was shocked at the amount of people that would rap instead of walking down from the col. Nice posts!

    PS: You are right on with "This place is picturesque as fuck!" LOL